Importance of teaching vocabulary to 5th grade students

Recently Kazakhstani education system is in the process of modernization and development. President of the republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev promoted his Trilingual policy and according to his policy every citizen of the country should acquire three languages: Kazakh, Russian and English (The State Program of Education Development 2011-2020). More attention on education paid for the role of English language. Learning English language is seen as necessary part of the country’s developing. The reason of teaching and learning English language intensively is that we consider the language as a key for entering the global economy and being a part of the 50 developed countries in the world. Therefore, teaching English language is also taking a new way in Kazakhstan. According to the 2011-2020 program teaching English language in all secondary schools of the government is compulsory from the 1st grade. Currently this policy is supported and followed by all educational organizations.

All the state programs concerning education regulated and guided by the State Overall Compulsory Educational Standard and Teaching Program. The State Educational Standard is the policy journal of the National Association of State Boards of Education. Written for lay leaders and professional educators alike, the journal explores major education issues through the lens of policy development and implementation. Educational standard has different branches according to the peculiarities of students’ grade, level and major. We would like to consider educational standard for teaching English in secondary schools. For instance, requirements of the educational standard for teaching 5th grade students are following (Astana, 2013, p. 118121):

  • Knowledge of phonetics (pronunciation of different sounds, follow the intonation, put the correct stress to the word);
  • Lexical aspect of the language (amount of new vocabulary should be 300 words; affixes of parts of speech, word building);
  • Grammatical aspect of the language (the article, Present Simple/Continuous, Modal verbs, phrasal verbs, to be going to, there is/there are, pronouns, nouns, a lot of, few, a few, little, a little, adverbs, numerals (1-1000), types of questions);
  • Writing (30-40 words);
  • Listening (understanding of audio materials);
  • Reading (reading out loud and reading for understanding the material);
  • Social competence (introducing with English speaking countries and their culture).

Teaching Program accentuated that 5th grade students should acquire A level after finishing this grade. The purpose of teaching English to secondary school students is to develop their cultural communication according to European A1, A2 levels and to teach them to use their knowledge in real life situations. According to this program objectives of teaching foreign language are the following:

  • To learn how to use phonetics, vocabulary, grammar and writing in communication with foreigners;
  • To learn to use communicative aspects as listening, speaking, writing and reading in communication;
  • To give knowledge about the country and its culture through its language;
  • To build general and specific skills by using new technologies;
  • To teach to how to assess themselves;
  • To be able to use all skills to solve academic and practical problems;
  • To up-bring national respect and tolerance to other nations’ cultural differences.

According to Instructional Methodology Handbook (p.8-10) to develop 5-7th grade students speaking ability dialogues and monologues should be used. Furthermore, teachers should teach students learn by using associations, word combinations, plans and logical schemes. This could be useful for them to easily acquire the language and memorize new material. Monologues help them to develop their speaking ability through writing. Sentences which are built accurately can be achieved through writing when students have just elementary level of knowledge in English. Dialogues help them to learn through communication with their partners. They can learn from each other and while learning they should see what they know and what they need to improve further. Logical schemes and plans can help students to organize their learning. When students are able to organize their learning they can avoid number of problems that can appear during learning.

In order to reach all these results in students’ knowledge we came to the conclusion that students’ vocabulary should be developed. The reasons of considering teaching vocabulary in secondary schools is that vocabulary is the fundament of learning languages and in order to be able to speak, read, write and comprehend the speech necessary amount of vocabulary required. Moreover, grammar cannot be taught and comprehend by students properly without necessary amount of vocabulary. Wilkinson (1972) once said," Without grammar, very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed.” Knowing vocabulary helps them to understand easily the material and to be getting involved in teaching learning process. Another thing that should be mentioned that problems acquired with vocabulary may lead to have poor results in learners’ further foreign language learning progress. Especially, teachers in higher educational institutions often noticed big gap in their students’ knowledge. In order to fix this problem big attention should be paid on teaching vocabulary in secondary schools.

Our analyses of the textbook recommended by the government for teaching 5th grade students shown that there some gaps and differences in accordance with the Educational standard. The gaps can cause difficulties in teaching and learning. Limitations on vocabulary can be harmful for students’ acquiring the further knowledge. Taking Instructional Methodology Handbook 2013-2014(p.8-10) as a base of preparing additional materials for teaching 5th grade students where it is said that it’s recommended to develop additional teaching materials for students we decided to analyze some principles of teaching vocabulary.

Teaching is the process of imparting knowledge and skills from a teacher to a learner. It contains the activities of educating and instructing. It is an act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. Teaching is basically the art of educating. Teaching usually requires a passion for learning and a deeper passion for education itself. Teaching is when a person introduces a new idea or subject to another person. A person that is taught is able to learn new and exciting things that they did not know.

Vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person (Wallace M.p.99). A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge. Acquiring an extensive vocabulary is one of the largest challenges in learning a second language. Vocabulary is about words and their meanings. According to the definition of the Steven Stahl vocabulary is the knowledge about word and how this word fits into the world. Vocabulary cannot be mastered it develops and deepens through whole person’s life.

Teaching vocabulary is about providing students’ with necessary amount of words and how to use and when to use these words. Teaching vocabulary requires vocabulary to be useful for learners. They should be actively used in real life situations. That leads to the fact that the word should be meaningful and worth teaching. Before teaching the word it should be studied carefully. The purpose of examining the word is to know what aspects will be difficult when learning particular word. Useful vocabulary should to be involved in exercises again and again to make sure that it’s learned by students. Another thing that should be taken into account is the learners’ age. Words should be appropriate to learners’ age. They should be understandable for them not only in foreign language but also in their native language.

Let us also keep in mind that vocabulary is the main language learning aspect. Without knowing the vocabulary students’ cannot speak and read and understand the material. While learning foreign language people learn vocabulary throughout learning process and even throughout their life. Taking into account teaching program (2013) we can see that students’ should be taught vocabulary in order to be able to use them in real life situations. It means that students’ should not only learn the vocabulary but also they should be able to express themselves in English language. Learners’ achievements on other aspects such as speaking, reading, listening and even in grammar depend on knowing vocabulary. Grammar material cannot be acquired without vocabulary. Mostly because given sentence or tasks include the words and solving these tasks directly depends on vocabulary.

While preparing teaching materials some factors should be taken into account. First of all, it is learners’ age. Our 5th grade students’ are 10-11 year old pupils. At this age they are more interested in taking knowledge. They are eager to acquire something new. Second thing that should be taken into account is the learners’ level of knowledge. According to their level teaching materials can be prepared. 5th grade secondary school learners have elementary level of knowledge; however, it should be mentioned that they are not beginners. Because, they have already started learning language in primary school. Third thing is learners’ background. What they learnt and what they know is very important. According to this knowledge following teaching materials should be chosen. If they have already learnt the material the material can be presented as a revision lesson. Children of this age tend to be forgetful. In this respect materials should be presented in that way which previous material can be repeated on new lesson.

Peculiarities of teaching school children to vocabulary are important part to be taken into consideration. Small children love seeing exact examples of what their learning. For example, if they study about types of clouds they want to see these clouds in real life. Teenagers tend to learn words through accusations and examples. The more new word engaged in texts, exercises the more they remember and learn. Accurate pronunciation is also important for them. Without knowing to how to pronounce word it is hard to memorize the word. This means that new words should be used again and again in speech so that they can hear and it. When they hear it several times they could memorize it and moreover, they could have an exact idea of when to use the word. School children usually taught new vocabulary and their peculiarities by teacher. While teaching vocabulary teachers follow some principles.

Principles of teaching vocabulary used to make learning easier and to help students to overcome with difficulties in learning vocabulary. There are different principles of teaching vocabulary. Different authors mentioned different principles. Most of them are similar and have the same meaning but varies names. According to Alekseeva A. A. teaching through “word combinations” is more useful than teaching single words. Because, it helps students to develop their communication skills. By learning single words children usually face with such problem as combining those words together and make sentences from them. Learning already combined words and phrases make them easier to use them in communication. Spoken textbook does not contain phrases or word combinations. In this respect we can see that there is a gap on lexical aspect of teaching English for 5th grade students. This further may lead to problems in social competences on the students. Because, they may not create sentences and express them easily.

Next principle that we want to speak is “engagement with vocabulary”. The aim of this principle is to provide with necessary exercises for vocabulary. There are only few exercises on vocabulary on the textbook. It is not enough to simply tell students the meanings of words or get them to only study words out of context. They need opportunities to see or hear target words in a meaningful context, and opportunities to use target words in meaningful writing and speaking tasks. Challenging students to find these words in reading or listening passages and use these words in particular writing and speaking tasks is a simple way to approach this. The provision of these opportunities is the main job of a teacher (Wallace M., Teaching Vocabulary, p. 99).

One of the most effective methods of helping children learn new vocabulary words is to teach unfamiliar words used in a text prior to the reading experience. Students should preview reading materials to determine which words are unfamiliar. Then these words should be defined and discussed. It is important for the adult to not only tell the pupils what the word means, but also to discuss its meaning. This allows the pupils to develop an understanding of the word’s connotations as well as its denotation. Also, discussion provides the adult with feedback about how well the pupils understand the word. After preteaching vocabulary words, the pupils should read the text.

Clear vocabulary presentation on the textbook is also important oneVocabularies should be clear with their transcription and translation. Obviously, the textbook does not contain such items in it. We think that it is worth mention because it has some advantages. First of all, it would be better for students to write and remember words. Then they would have some clear ideas on what they are going to learn. Furthermore, it would be better to save their time if vocabulary would be given in such way. Presentation on vocabulary mostly depends on the methods that teacher use to teach the vocabulary.

Methods of teaching vocabulary are very importantFirst of all, method is the way of teachers explaining and teaching of the subject to his students. Secondly, from what method teacher uses depends on students’ acquiring the subject. Different methods of teaching vocabulary exist. Teacher should use the method that will help to achieve the main goal. In teaching vocabulary main goal is to make students understand the word, recognize them in text and make them able to use in communication.

Total physical response method is one of the wide spread methods in teaching. It is based on repletion of words. Besides, this method is focused on explanation through using body language. The method stresses the importance of aural comprehension. This method mostly used for teaching beginners. When learners are just begun to study language this method can be very useful. However, for students which have basic knowledge in learning language this method cannot be as much useful as for beginners. The reason of our consideration is that this method is more language-centered. While, modern language teaching methods require student-centered approaches in order to develop their creativity and self-sufficiency in accordance with their knowledge in particular subject.

One more method of teaching is called the direct method. This method is more concentrated on using target language rather than native language. The learner is not allowed to use his or her mother tongue. Grammar rules are avoided and there is emphasis on good pronunciation. Vocabulary is taught mainly through using pictures, demonstration and association. Direct method of teaching can be useful for children because they could memorize words easily. Students of secondary school can find this method helpful. Because, they demonstration and association of words can make them understand and have the clear idea about the meaning of the words. Another similar to direct method which is used for teaching vocabulary is audio-lingual method. New language is first heard and extensively drilled before being seen in its written form. However, this method is more focused on teaching grammar rather than vocabulary. In this method students learn through repeating what exactly teacher shows.

Task based learning of vocabulary is about learning through doing some tasks by using target language. The focus of the teaching is on the completion of a task which in itself is interesting to the learners. Learners use the language they already have to complete the task and there is little correction of errors. This method can be useful in teaching foreign language as it engages students with vocabulary. Students here should use the language in the forms of dialogues in communication. One more important thing is that this method based on directly using language in real life situations. That will be exactly what students’ want to acquire while learning language. This method can be helpful in using for teaching vocabulary to reach the final goals of our educational standard.

According to Georgi Lozanov teachers by using Suggestopedia method for teaching foreign language to their students can make them learn language three or five times quicker than using other methods. This method based on teaching through suggestion. It means giving more freedom to learners. However, this method cannot be always appropriate for children. Because, their brain could not be developed to understand the matter yet. The theory underlying this method is that a language can be acquired only when the learner is receptive and has no mental blocks. By various methods it is suggested to the student that the language is easy and in this way the mental blocks to learning are removed. In grammar translation method learners use both their native and target language. The grammar translation method instructs students in grammar, and provides vocabulary with direct translations to memorize. Besides, in this method grammar rules are to be memorized and long lists of vocabulary learned by heart. This method helps to remember and acquire the knowledge. However, there is little or no emphasis placed on developing oral ability.

A teaching method comprises the principles and methods used for instruction. Commonly used teaching methods may include class participation, demonstration, recitation, memorization, or combinations of these. The choice of teaching method or methods to be used depends largely on the information or skill that is being taught, and it may also be influenced by the aptitude and enthusiasm of the students. Different methods can be used in teaching vocabulary. It is not necessarily to use only one method for teaching. Teacher can combine them on his/her lessons according to his/her goal and learners’ needs. In order to overcome the problems that could appear in teaching vocabulary it is important to choose the right method.

It is known that in order to make students learn teacher should motivate them. Without motivation it is hard to achieve any results in teaching and learning. Motivation can inspire learners’ to set goals in their learning and this will be the best way to keep them study. Motivation can be born through raising students’ interest. Different technologies and methods used for motivating students. Especially, when they are just going to study English language and especially this should be started in their early age and continued in secondary schools.

Nowadays it is also modern to use computer technologies in the English classroom. Using computer and internet resources in teaching vocabulary brings a lot of opportunities to students and teachers. These supplements can save the time and provide with a lot of information in a right time. New teaching ways all now connected with internet and we cannot stay behind while teaching vocabulary. New technologies are everywhere and it is now the part of our community.

Another important thing that teacher should teach their students is that teaching how to learn vocabulary. Tasks are given everywhere and explanations are usually provided by teacher or a textbook. However, sometimes strategies of learning are missed by teachers. Strategies help students to organize their learning and to find their particular way of learning vocabulary. Using strategies in learning help students’ to analyze their learning and find their weak points and according to them they could make their learning easier and more productive. Furthermore, strategies help students’ to find their own learning style.

Effective vocabulary teaching can be achieved through having this base of vocabulary. For instance, if teacher begins to teach grammar or starts with reading he/she can realize that students’ knowledge in vocabulary would prevent their further understanding of the language. Another may of teaching vocabulary is using games in teaching. Games should be balanced in teaching. Teachers cannot use games in every lesson, because, it may take a lot of time. However, in order to develop students’ interest into language they could use it from time to time. Besides, nowadays different types of games are exists. Teacher can choose one which will help them to make lesson interesting and effective.

In order to successfully complete the requirements set by educational standard and reach the goals of President’s trilingual policy vast attention should be paid on teaching English in secondary schools. Teaching language mainly depends on students’ ability to use this language. In order to use language they should acquire necessary amount of vocabulary. In this respect, more attention should be paid on teaching vocabulary. Through vocabulary different aspects set by the educational standard can be improved. Choosing right principles of teaching vocabulary can help to achieve this and further to develop right teaching materials. Methods and principles can help students to acquire knowledge easily. In our case to make teaching vocabulary easily. We spoke about modern technologies and role of the internet because nowadays everything connected with it. These things can help students to be successful in their learning. There new goals in our education system and these new goals should be achieved by the help of the new technologies. Teaching vocabulary has significant role in teaching foreign language. Even slightest gaps in students’ knowledge can cause problems in their further language development. Vocabulary should be taught intensively and repeated regularly. Another thing that should be captured by teachers is teaching how to learn in general and how to learn vocabulary. Many people obtain education without what to do with it and how to use it. Students learn best when they clearly know how to learn certain kind of information.



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  2. Instructional Methodology Handbook 20132014, Astana, 2013, p.8-10
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  9. Effective Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary, K12 Reader, Reading Instruction Recourses for Teachers and Parents, p.1
  10. Меньяр-Белоручева А.П. Англо-русские обороты в научной речи. – М., 2005.
Year: 2014
City: Almaty
Category: Philology